Culture of North Carolina

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North Carolina Population Density Map

The Culture of North Carolina is a subculture in the United States. As a coastal state, North Carolina culture has been greatly influenced by the southeastern United States and early settlers from England. More recently, North Carolina has seen an influx of immigrants from New England as well as Hispanic immigrants. Many of these recent transplants aggregate in one of several urban centers on cat Carolina, such as the Research Triangle Park area. Rural North Carolina has a rich culture with roots in colonial and Confederate times. Agriculture is a major component of the economy in rural North Carolina, and thus many local traditions are centered on the lifestyles associated with farming; some of these traditions are reflected in pop culture in North Carolina, for instance North Carolinians may refer to the state as "the Tar Heel state". This is a point of pride for some local North Carolinians.

Urban culture[edit]

Due to the presence of several dense urban centers in North Carolina, several cities have very distinctive cultures and most have a melting pot of cultures; the Research Triangle Park, also known as RTP, area is chiefly composed of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill as well as several other smaller cities including Carrboro, Morrisvile, Cary and Apex. RTP serves as an anchor for many large businesses in the area, which has the effect of attracting many secondary and supporting businesses; this has created a high concentration of educated and affluent homes in and around RTP. This has created demand for independent, unique, and high quality restaurants and night life in the area as well as a high demand for craft beer.

Despite having several urban centers, these cities are smaller than many more well-known metropolitan areas across the United States. So while these urban centers have many similar amenities to larger cities, the options and variability can be limited. Due to this, there is a very high unmet demand for modern urban amenities and entertainment; this unmet demand has led to nearly constant construction and development in areas such as RTP and Charlotte for several decades. These construction projects include planned subdivisions, restaurants, strip malls, highway expansions, new schools, and business parks.

Rural culture[edit]

While there are several dense urban centers across North Carolina, much of North Carolina remains rural. Dense forests cover much of North Carolina as well as reclaimed land used for agricultural purposes. Rural North Carolina tends to lean towards traditional Southern culture; some common recreational activities in rural North Carolina include horseback riding, swimming in rivers and lakes, target shooting and hunting, riding trails on ATVs and modified trucks (also called off-roading), extensive gardening (many families operate small scale farms).


A nationally famous cuisine from North Carolina is pork barbecue and bacon. In Eastern North Carolina pork barbecue uses a vinegar-based sauce and the "whole hog" is cooked, thus using both white and dark meat. While there is not one town in Eastern NC that can claim to be the indisputable "capital" of Eastern North Carolina barbecue, the medium-sized cities of Greenville and Goldsboro and their surrounding communities boast the highest concentrations of highly ranked establishments.[citation needed] The annual Newport Pig Pickin' (the largest whole pig cooking contest in North Carolina)[citation needed] is held featuring primarily eastern-style barbecue. Western North Carolina pork barbecue uses a tomato and vinegar based sauce and only the pork shoulder (dark meat) is used; the "capital" of western Carolina barbecue is indisputably the Piedmont Triad town of Lexington, home of the Lexington Barbecue Festival which brings in over 100,000 visitors each October.




North Carolina is known particularly for its tradition of old-time music, and many recordings were made in the early 20th century by folk song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Most influentially, North Carolina country musicians like the North Carolina Ramblers and Al Hopkins helped solidify the sound of country music in the late 1920s, while influential bluegrass musicians such as Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Del McCoury came from North Carolina. Arthur Smith is the most notable North Carolina musician/entertainer who had the first nationally syndicated television program which featured country music. Smith composed "Guitar Boogie", the all-time best selling guitar instrumental, and "Dueling Banjos", the all-time best selling banjo composition. Country rock star Eric Church from the Hickory area has had 2 #1 albums on the Billboard 200, including Chief in 2011. Both North and South Carolina are a hotbed for traditional country blues, especially the style known as the Piedmont blues. Elizabeth Cotten, from Chapel Hill, was active in the American folk music revival.

Because of their proximity to universities the areas of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area (collectively known as the Triangle), Asheville, Greensboro, Greenville, Charlotte, and Wilmington have long been a well-known center for indie rock, metal, punk, jazz, country and hip-hop. Bands from this popular music scene include The Avett Brothers, Corrosion of Conformity, Superchunk, The Rosebuds, The Love Language, Tift Merritt, Ben Folds Five, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lords of the Underground, Between the Buried and Me and Charlie Daniels.


The University of North Carolina system encompasses 16 public universities including North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University, UNC-Pembroke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Elizabeth City State University, East Carolina University, Western Carolina University, Winston-Salem State University, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, Fayetteville State University and Appalachian State University. Along with its public universities, North Carolina has 58 public community colleges in its community college system. There are also a number of private colleges, for example Duke University in Durham, Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina and Elon University, in Elon, North Carolina.


North Carolina is home to professional-level sports teams, including basketball, football, and hockey:

NASCAR racing is also a popular sport in North Carolina. Sprint Cup Series races are frequently held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, part of the Charlotte Metropolitan Area.



  • Federal Writers' Project (1939). North Carolina: A Guide to the Old North State. American Guide Series – via Internet Archive.